Authoritative leadership doesn’t work anymore

When I accepted my current job, it was to fill a void left by a manager who was no longer effective.

The days that followed were filled with stories of him hollering at people, threatening, belittling and basically just being a bully. I was pegged for his replacement because I interviewed to be his polar opposite.

BACK IN THE day, bosses could get away with throwing their weight around, scaring people into submission and using the “you will do this because I am your boss and I told you to do it” tactic. A boss who “doesn’t put up with shit” was desired by companies.

However, be it a generational shift or result of in-depth social studies on work places, it has been discovered “not putting up with shit” isn’t good enough. In fact, to some degree, it’s a bad thing.

Turns out the best leaders are those who get the best out of people instead of those who inspire people to do just enough to keep their jobs.

Authoritarian leaders are on the way out.

WE FIND OURSELVES amid this transition when it comes to leadership in our country. We have a president who prides himself on being this old school boss, not “putting up with shit” from anyone. This sounds good to some, but is even worse than ineffective to others … it is counterproductive.

For instance, we saw this last week with the government shutdown. We see it every time our president tries to get legislation passed or reform an institution installed prior to his tenure. It’s a struggle … a bad struggle where people actually put so much effort into fighting him that they have no effort left put into being the leaders they were elected to be.

While the president may have sound ideas that might work if put in motion, they will never take off simply because of the “you will do this because I am your boss and I told you to do it” approach.

He will ultimately always be ineffective – and always blame others for this ineffectiveness.

THE BOSS I REPLACED had his direct reports’ attention at first. He did scare them into doing the things he told them to do. They were even covering for him when he was not present but should have been.

But eventually, it became too much and the whistle blowing began – slightly, at first, but loudly before it was over. They were tired of being talked down to. They were sick of not being appreciated, recognized or encouraged. Not one wanted to be a worker bee anymore for a “queen” only in it for herself.

So which is better? On one hand, the less authoritarian and more authoritative is preferred by many direct reports. This is the person who sets high goals, but also offers the tools and support necessary to meet them. Positive reinforcement plays a big role. But on the other hands, some direct reports will always interpret the authoritative leader as a friend and ultimately a pushover … which generally does not happen with an authoritarian leader.

The answer to this is in recent history, with our president. He may be full of wonderful ideas and schemes, but until he stops being a dictator in a democratic society, he will not accomplish anything.

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